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Grumman Panther

The Grumman F9F Panther is one of the United States Navy’s first successful carrier-based jet fighters, as well as Grumman’s first jet fighter. 

A single-engined, straight-winged day fighter, it was armed with four 20 mm (0.79 in) cannons and could carry a wide assortment of air-to-ground munitions.

The Panther was used extensively by the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps in the Korean War.

It was also the first jet aircraft used by the Blue Angels aerobatics demonstration team, from 1949 through late 1954.

The aircraft was exported to Argentina and was the first jet used by the Argentine Naval Aviation.

Total F9F production was 1,382. The design evolved into the swept wing Grumman F-9 Cougar.

Development studies at Grumman for jet-powered fighter aircraft began near the end of World War II as the first jet engines emerged.

In a competition for a jet-powered night fighter for the United States Navy, on 3 April 1946 the Douglas F3D Skyknight was selected over Grumman’s G-75, a two-seater powered by four Westinghouse J30s.

The Navy’s Bureau of Aeronautics (BuAer) also issued a contract to Grumman for two G-75 prototype aircraft on 11 April 1946, being given the Navy designation XF9F-1, in case the Skyknight ran into problems.

Grumman soon realized the G-75 was a dead end, but had been working on a completely different, single-engine day fighter, the G-79.

In a bureaucratic manoeuvre, BuAer did not cancel the G-75 contract, but changed the wording to include three prototypes of the entirely different G-79.

It became the Panther.

The prototype Panther, piloted by test pilot Corky Meyer, first flew on 21 November 1947.

American engines available at the time included the Allison J33 and Westinghouse J34, but these were not considered sufficiently reliable, so the Navy specified the imported Rolls-Royce Nene turbojet, which was also more powerful, at 5,000 lb (2,300 kg) of thrust.

Production aircraft would have a Nene, built under license by Pratt & Whitney as the J42.

Since there was insufficient space within the wings and fuselage for fuel for the thirsty jet, permanently mounted wingtip fuel tanks were added, which incidentally improved the fighter’s rate of roll.

The F9F was cleared for flight from aircraft carriers in September 1949.

During the development phase, Grumman decided to change the Panther’s engine, selecting the Pratt & Whitney J48-P-2, a license-built version of the Rolls-Royce RB.44 Tay.

The other engine that had been tested was the Allison J33-A-16.

The armament was a quartet of 20mm guns, the Navy having already switched to this calibre (as opposed to the USAAF/USAF which continued to use .50 calibre M2/M3 guns).

In addition, the Panther was soon armed with underwing air-to-ground rockets and up to 2,000 lb (910 kg) of bombs.

From 1946, a swept-wing version was considered and after concerns about the Panther’s inferiority to its MiG opponents in Korea, a conversion, known as Design 93, resulted in a swept-wing derivative, the F9F Cougar, which retained the Panther’s designation number.

In 1949, the Panther was considered by the Australian government, as a possible locally built replacement for the Mustang Mk 23 and De Havilland Vampire then operated by the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF).



Prototypes, two built


First production version, powered by Pratt & Whitney J42 engine.


Version fitted with underwing racks for bombs and rockets.

As all F9F-2s were brought up to this standard, the B designation was dropped.


Unarmed photo-reconnaissance version used in Korea.


Prototype for the F9F-3.


Allison J33 powered version produced as insurance against the failure of the J42, with all converted to the J42 later; redesignated F-9B in 1962.


Prototypes used in the development of the F9F-4.


Version with longer fuselage with greater fuel load and powered by J33 engine.

F9F-4s were the first aircraft to successfully employ pressurized bleed air, tapped from the engine’s compressor stages, and blown across the surface of the slot flaps, simulating a higher airspeed across the control surface, and thus achieving a decrease in stalling speed of 9 kn for take-off and 7 kn on power approach for landing; re-designated F-9C in 1962, 109 ordered, all completed as F9F-5s.


Variant of F9F-4 but powered by Pratt & Whitney J48 engine.

Re-designated F-9D in 1962.


Unarmed photo-reconnaissance version, with longer nose; redesignated RF-9D in 1962.


After the F9F Panther was withdrawn operational service, a number of F9F-5s were converted into unmanned target drone aircraft; redesignated QF-9D in 1962.


Radio controlled drone director conversions for F9F-5K drones; redesignated DF-9E in 1962.





38 ft 10 in (11.84 m)


38 ft 0 in (11.58 m)


12 ft 3 in (3.73 m)

Wing area

250 sq ft (23 m2)

Empty weight

10,147 lb (4,603 kg)

Gross weight

18,721 lb (8,492 kg)


1 × Pratt & Whitney J48-P-6A turbojet,

6,250 lbf (27.8 kN) thrust


Maximum speed

503 kn (579 mph, 932 km/h) at 5,000 ft (1,500 m)

Cruise speed

418 kn (481 mph, 774 km/h)


1,100 nmi (1,300 mi, 2,100 km)

Service ceiling

42,800 ft (13,000 m)

Rate of climb

5,090 ft/min (25.9 m/s)



4 × 20 mm (0.79 in) AN/M3 cannon,

190 rounds per gun,

760 rounds total.



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